Disgruntled neighbors and dwindling shorebirds jeopardize SpaceX expansion

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Celia Johnson, a retired social worker in her mid-70s, can still vividly describe childhood trips to the thin, sandy beach in the village of Boca Chica, Texas. There he and his family spent their day running into the crashing waves and collecting shells while feasting on sandwiches and watermelon.

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“My dad can’t afford to take us to the movies,” Johnson said. “That was our entertainment.”

Thirty years ago, Johnson made sure to pass that dream on to his children by buying a three-bedroom brick farm to retire there. He then bought a second ranch house nearby to rent to support him in retirement. For years, she spent her winters in Boca Chica, mainly driving through Michigan to escape the cold and welcome ocean breezes that relieved her asthma.

Celia Johnson, a retired social worker in her mid-70s, spent her winters in Boca Chica.Courtesy Celia Johnson
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“It was so peaceful, and the night was so dark that you could see a billion stars,” she said. “You are surrounded by nothing but nature. The beach was pristine and there were tons of different species of birds.”

But when SpaceX, the space company, came to the city in 2014 to build a commercial spaceport, the statue was interrupted. The company’s presence, while hailed by local politicians in the lure of the promise of taxable income and employment opportunities, has become a nightmare for many residents and wildlife conservationists attempting to protect the sensitive habitat surrounding the development.

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Since SpaceX began construction in late 2015 and tested rockets in 2019, explosions have showered debris into previously bad tidal flats and blew out the windows of residents, including Johnson. Rare species of birds such as piping plovers and mammals have decreased, and rapid periods of construction and testing have closed public access to the beach for more days than ever before Authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has federal oversight of development, The company has also installed bright floodlights to illuminate the road and construction site.

“You can’t see the stars anymore,” Johnson said.

Now, the FAA is reviewing SpaceX’s plans to expand the spaceport to allow the launch of the largest rocket known to man, a detail that has worried many residents, environmentalists and wildlife conservationists.

Credit: www.nbcnews.com /

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